43 college dorm essentials you’ll actually use – according to a recent graduate

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  • Going back to college is always an exciting time, whether it’s your first year or you’re a senior.
  • If you’re heading off to college for the first time ever, you’re probably wondering what to pack.
  • Below I’ve listed some dorm room essentials most of us recent graduates agree are essential.

If you’re heading off to college for the first time this fall, congrats! It’s such an exciting time – picking out your classes, meeting your roommate, making new friends. Although exciting, moving away from home and into a new space with a new person can be nerve-wracking. A good packing list to get you prepared for move-in day won’t necessarily calm all of your first-day jitters, but it hopefully will make you feel a little more ready.

As someone who recently graduated from college, the chaos of dorm-room shopping is fresh in my mind. I also remember the items I used every day and the items I was convinced I needed, but sadly never made it out of their packaging. That’s why this list exists – to give you some guidance that will hopefully make your college shopping process a little less hectic.

From the more obvious basics, like a comforter, to the more obscure, like an Amazon prime membership, this list has all the essentials to get you ready for the big day.

Shop our picks for 43 great dorm room essentials below

An Amazon Prime Membership for convenient shopping and free shipping

amazonprime, $6.49 a month

Amazon Prime Student Membership, $6.49/month (6-month free trial for new members)

Amazon Prime is the ultimate in convenience, especially if you don’t have a car on campus or if you go to school in a more removed, rural area. I found myself on Amazon Prime often, constantly ordering last-minute school supplies, my favorite snacks from home, and even toiletries when I was too lazy to drive to the store. The convenient service takes the annoyance of shopping away so you can focus on more important things, like studying.

If you are a new member you can get a free trial of Prime for six months, otherwise you can just get a discounted student membership.

A wallet that sticks to the back of your phone

amazon adhesive wallet $5.99 5 pack

Adhesive Phone Card Holder, $3.99 at Target

My student ID was one of my most valuable possessions in college. That little plastic card gave me access to my meal plan, my dorm, laundry, and more. I didn’t usually carry a full wallet with me, but I always had my phone on me, so I used these little phone wallets to hold my important cards instead. I could fit three cards, or two cards and some cash, in one of these.

A bottle to keep your drinks hot and your bag dry

contigo $11.75

Contigo Autoseal Travel Mug, $20.49 at Target

When you need to bring a hot beverage to class, there is nothing worse than opening your backpack to find your travel mug has leaked onto your schoolwork. This travel mug is great for keeping your drinks hot, but it also has an autoseal that actually keeps your drinks from leaking and spilling. So, you can throw this in your backpack and still hand in your essay sans coffee stains.

A pair of shower shoes that you can also wear to class

haivaianas $18

Havaianas Top Flip Flops, $18 at Zappos

Shower shoes are a must if you’re using communal showers. These Havaianas are simple, comfortable, and you won’t be horribly embarrassed if you accidentally wear them out of the shower and into class.

A shower caddy that carries everything

shower caddy

Day/Night Shower Caddy, $7.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond

This shower caddy is big enough to hold all of your shower supplies, but has a removable mini carrier so you don’t need to lug everything with you when you shower, you can just take what you need. 

A fan that is a lifesaver if you don’t have air conditioning

vornado $34.99

Vornado Small Air Circulator Fan, $30 at Bed Bath & Beyond

If you don’t have air conditioning in your dorm, you need a fan. This one is small, but mighty. You will actually feel the difference in the air when you turn this fan on, but it is still small enough to fit on your desk, making it a great choice for a college dorm room.

A command hook that can do some heavy lifting

large command hook, $4.55

Command Large Plastic Hook, $4.00 at Target

These little hooks are major space savers. They come with adhesive strips for easy application to the wall and come off the wall without damaging the surface. It says these hooks can hold up to 5 lbs, but I was still surprised that this little plastic hooks could actually bear the weight of my heavy winter parka. These are great to stick to the wall for additional storage for jackets, bags, and other items that might not fit in your closet.

A tapestry to liven up dull dorm room walls

society6 tapestry, $43.99

Society6 Tapestries, starting at $31.49

Dorm room walls can be dull, but you can easily cover them and add some intrigue to your room with a tapestry. Society6 has tapestries in a wide range of prints including photographs, paintings, and typography. You can find lots of unique designs to make your room feel a little more like your own.

A colorful speaker that is college-proof

UE boom, starting at $99 to $120.98

Ultimate Ears Boom 2, $80 at Best Buy

The UE Boom 2 speaker is made for college students. It wasn’t really, but this shockproof, waterproof speaker can survive all of the antics of a college party. In a dorm room, these speakers are pretty loud on their own, but if you are moving to a bigger space and want even louder sound, you can connect your UE Boom with up to 150 other UE speakers for the ultimate party sound system. The fun colors are also a plus.

A lamp that is also an outlet and desk organizer

equipyourspace $14.99

Organizer/USB Outlet Desk Lamp, $15.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond

You don’t get much space in dorm rooms, so any multi-purpose items are great for capitalizing on what you actually do have. This lamp is functional enough on its own, but the added USB outlet and organizational space make it that much more practical. You can hold post-its, paperclips, and other small school supplies in the organization compartments and the USB outlet is great if your room has limited wall outlets.

A drying rack that can be folded up for easy space-saving

polder $19.90

Polder Compact Accordian Drying Rack, $19.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond

When folded down, this drying rack is flat and can be stored easily under your bed. When opened up, it provides 14 feet of drying space without taking up much space in your room. If you have any clothing that is too delicate for the dryer, one of these racks will come in handy. The best part is, you won’t even notice it once you put it away.

A Moleskine journal that you can use for handy notes

moleskin $14.75

Moleskine Hard Cover Notebook, $25.99 at Quill

Moleskine journals are great for a multitude of uses. They are smaller than most typical subject notebooks, but still can be used for class. I like to use mine as a planner and for jotting down random notes and thoughts I have throughout the day. The hard cover notebooks are flexible, but still durable enough to survive a messy backpack. 

Decorative pillows to liven up your space

dormify starting at $15

Decorative pillows, starting at $7 at Dormify

To make your dorm feel homey, add some decorative pillows to your bed. Decorative pillows are a fun way to show off your style and make your space feel like its yours. Plus, these will also make your bed extra cozy. 

A set of plastic drawers for easy under-bed storage

Iris $29.99

Iris Loft Underbed Stacking Drawer, $29.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond

Dorm rooms don’t typically offer a lot of space, so you have to get creative to make room for all of your belongings. These plastic stacking drawers are great for under-the-bed storage. These drawers are stackable to really maximize space and the front of the drawer is clear so you can easily see what is inside. These are perfect for storing clothing, towels, sheets, and more. 

A power strip for all of your devices

belkin $11.99

Belkin Power Strip Surge Protector, $21.49 at Staples

With a lot of tech, you will need a lot of outlets to charge everything. Many dorm rooms are not set up so outlets are in the most accessible locations, plus you have to share what is available with your roommate. A power strip is an easy, cheap solution to make sure all of your devices can be charged simultaneously. 

A hamper that also holds your laundry supplies

pop up hamper $7.99

Pop-Up Mesh Laundry Hamper, 7.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond

Depending on your laundry situation, you might be lugging your hamper up flights of stairs or to another building on campus. This hamper will make that process a little easier, with side pockets for your laundry supplies, so you have everything laundry related in one place. Plus, when you’re not using it, this hamper can be folded down flat and stored easily elsewhere in your room. 

A kettle that makes heating water safer, and easier

black&decker $24.99

Black + Decker Electric Kettle, $25.00 at Bed Bath & Beyond

I didn’t use an electric kettle until senior year, but now it’s a staple in my kitchen. It heats up water rapidly and automatically turns the kettle off once the water is boiled, so you don’t have to worry about any fire hazards. As a college student who was always rushing out of my apartment in the mornings, I always had peace of mind knowing that I didn’t leave the stove on to make my tea or oatmeal, because I didn’t need to use the stove at all. If you’re in a dorm and don’t have a kitchen, this is just as useful of an appliance for quickly heating water for tea, oatmeal, or a personal favorite instant meal, easy mac.

A towel that won’t fall

towelwrap $19.95

Women’s TowelNRobe Bath Wrap, $17.99 at Walmart

Mens Cotton Terry Body Wrap, $40.00 at Kohl’s

A towel wrap is a great substitute for a regular towel. These are just as comfortable and drying as your average towel, but the added Velcro strap ensures that your towel will stay put on your trek from your room to the shower.

A microwave that will make your favorite dishes

hamiltonbeach $55

Hamilton Beach Stainless Steel Microwave Oven, $69.98 at Walmart

Popcorn, easy mac, ramen — there’s so much you can make with a microwave. If you want to go a little more gourmet, you can make your own microwave-friendly dishes like mug cakes and frittatas. With the range of what you can make, and the ease of use, a microwave is a worthwhile and necessary investment for your college years.

Nutrition bars to keep you energized on long days

gomacro $16.83

GoMacro Nutrition Bars, $3.59 at Target

On those days when it feels like you will never get out of class, you’re going to need some sustenance. Nutrition bars are a quick fix that you can throw in your backpack for long days when you don’t have time to sit down for a meal. I like these ones because they’re made of simple, natural ingredients which will keep you fueled without a dreaded sugar crash later on. 

A little wastebasket to keep your room clean

trashbin $5.99

Mesh Metal Wastebasket, $6.99 each at Bed Bath & Beyond

It’s easy to let trash pile up in your dorm room, but having a trash can will at least help contain that mess. A lot of dorms have giant trash and recycling bins scattered throughout, but don’t have anything in the actual rooms. These wastebaskets are small enough that they can be hidden in the corners of your room, but they’re big enough to actually hold a good amount of garbage to make sure your surfaces are visible, and hopefully, clean.

A comforter that feels like your favorite T-shirt

dormify comforter $129

Tie Dye Jersey Comforter and Sham Set, starting at $99 (Twin XL) at Dormify

A soft comforter is a must. This one, made from cotton jersey, has the same cozy, worn-in feel as your favorite T-shirt. Plus, you can throw the whole thing in the wash for easy cleaning.

Febreze to freshen up your space

febreze $2.99

Febreze Air Freshener, $2.99 at Target

Your dorm room is your home base in college and you likely will use it for many other activities besides sleeping, which can give your room a “scent,” if we’re being generous. Many colleges don’t allow candles in dorms, but you can still hide the smell of burnt microwave pizza and dirty laundry with a can of Febreze. This linen & sky scent is light, but strong enough to eliminate the stink of college activities, so you can actually enjoy hanging out in your dorm room, odor-free.

A multipurpose mug that looks cute too

anthropologie mug

Lucy Eldridge Mug, $12 at Nordstrom

Even if you don’t have a kitchen in your dorm room, bring a mug with you to school. You can use it as a vessel for tea, microwave meals, and if you really have no desire to make any sort of food, this will make an adorable pencil holder on your desk. I like this one for the fun animal prints and sayings.

A set of sheets that is cozy and cool at the same time

brooklinen $99

Brooklinen Classic Core Sheet Set, starting at $99 for a Twin XL

These cozy percale sheets only get better with time. With each wash, the breathable fabric softens— a good incentive to do your laundry. Each set comes with a fitted sheet, flat sheet, and two pillowcases.

A bottle that will keep your water cold all day long

hydroflask $29.95

Hydro Flask 18 oz. Standard Mouth Water Bottle, $29.95

This insulated water bottle can keep your beverages cold for 24 hours, so you can always stay hydrated with ice cold water.  I love the range of bright colors and the option to purchase different caps, like a sports cap great for taking to the gym.

A set of Rubbermaid food storage containers to stash your snacks

rubbermaid $5.89

Rubbermaid Premier Food Storage Container, $20.99 for a 12-piece at Bed Bath & Beyond

Whether you are living in a dorm or off-campus, these Rubbermaid containers are a necessity. You can use these to bring packed lunches to class, to keep your favorite snacks safe from bugs, or stock up on food in the dining hall to stretch that college budget. These containers are microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe, so you can really use them for anything. 

A cheap, easy way to bring your memories with you to college

snapfish $0.20

Snapfish prints, starting at $0.09

Once you’re away, you may realize how much you miss your friends and family back home. Scrolling through pictures on Instagram and Facebook doesn’t always cut it, but printed pictures are a great way to keep the people you love around and make a great room decoration as well. Snapfish makes it easy to print your favorite pictures in a variety of sizes and finishes, and they start at only 9¢ per print.

A Keurig for a quick caffeine fix

keurig $92.02

Keurig K-Classic Coffee Maker, $129.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond

Early morning classes and late night study sessions make caffeine a college student’s best friend. When I was a freshman I could get unlimited free coffee at the campus dining halls, which was great. Once I graduated from an unlimited meal-plan though, I realized how much money I was wasting buying coffee that was honestly not even good. The Keurig was the answer; a speedy, single-serve coffee maker that is extremely easy to use and clean. The upfront cost may seem like a lot for a coffeemaker, but if you consider how much money you will save making your own brews in the morning, it definitely is a smart purchase.

A folder that can fit all of your subjects

five star $10.29

Five Star Expanding File Folder, $6.99 at Target

You most definitely will need folders or binders to keep track of all of your class handouts. While you can opt for individual folders for each subject, I found that one compact folder was the most convenient. With one folder, I was always prepared for class as I had all of my papers with me. Plus, this one is vertical so you can easily take papers in and out when you need them.

A sweatshirt that can take you from bed to class

eveerlane

The Classic French Terry Crew, $45 at Everlane

Long nights in the library, early morning classes when you wish you were still sleeping, these are the times that call for a comfortable sweatshirt and these are the times that make up a good chunk of the college experience. It may seem obvious, but pack a comfortable sweatshirt that you can lounge in, sleep in, and wear to class.

Clorox wipes for easy cleaning

Using Clorox to clean table outside

Clorox Wipes, $23.49 for a 3-pack at Amazon

Nobody is cleaning your room for you once you get to college, so you should have some basic cleaning supplies on hand. Clorox wipes are great for wiping away crumbs, dust, and any other grime that accumulates in your room. I have even used these to clean muddy, white sneakers, but I’m not sure that is the best method.

A charging cable that is extra-long and extra-convenient

amazon cable $9.99

Apple 6-Foot Long Charging Cable, $29.99 at Best Buy

This phone charger is extra-long, so you can use your phone while it charges in an outlet up to six feet away. This is super useful if there is no outlet near your bed, but also it’s just as good as a regular phone charger.

A little organizer for your desk

desk organizer

Bamboo Rotating Organizer, $25.38 at Walmart

You should definitely have some storage to keep your supplies organized, so you can actually use your desk. This desk organizer won’t take up too much space and is a tidy way to store the school supplies that you use often, like notepads, scissors, pens and pencils. The natural color will fit in with any decor and it rotates too, for easy, fast access to your school supplies from all angles.

Starry string lights for wall decorations

stringlights

Starry String Lights, $15.20 at West Elm

The artificial lighting that you will find in most dorm rooms is pretty depressing. String lights are a cheap, easy way to brighten up a dim space. With 33 feet of lighting, there are ample ways to set up these lights in your dorm room. When turned on, these also make a cute, and useful, decoration.

A comfy pair of slippers for your dorm and beyond

muk lul

Women’s Muk Luk Clog Slippers, $20.99 at Target

When you realize how dirty dorm floors get, you’ll be happy you have a pair of comfortable slippers to wear around your hall. This pair has an indoor/outdoor sole, which is great in the case that you do want to wear them outside.

Door hooks for added storage space

hook

Hook-Over Over the Door Hook, $1.99 at The Container Store

Another great space-saver, these hooks fit right over your door and are flat enough so your door can actually close. Use these to hold your towels, jackets, and bags. 

A Kindle for reading in your free time

kindle

Kindle Paperwhite, $94.99 at Target

If you have the free time to read for pleasure, a kindle is the way to go. With all the reading you have to do for class, you’ll have enough books taking up space on your desk and in your backpack. With a kindle you can get all of the titles you want on one compact device and at a fraction of the cost. This one has a Paperwhite surface, so you can read outside with no glare, and a built in light, so you can read before bed even if your roommate is sleeping.

Canvas pouches for all sorts of knick-knacks

canvaspouch

Canvas Pouches, starting at $10.74 at Etsy

I use this little canvas pouches for everything. They can be used as pencil cases, makeup bags, or to organize any other knick-knacks you have lying around. With a multitude of designs and even personalized options, you could get a few to hold a different items. 

A mattress topper that’ll transform a stiff mattress

linenspa

Linenspa 2-inch Gel Infused Memory Foam Mattress, starting at $58.99 (twin) at Wayfair

Your university probably isn’t welcoming all first-years to school with Leesa and Casper mattresses — and if they are, I want to know where you go to school. Luckily, you can transform those stiff-as-a-board mattresses for $40, or even less. A mattress topper is truly a blessing, turning any old bed into the comfortable sleep haven you deserve. I like the feel of plush memory foam toppers like this one, but there’s a plethora of materials to choose from so you can be sure you’ll find one that’s perfect for your sleep preferences and budget. 

A set of velvet hangers that keep your closet

velvet hangers

Real Simple Flocked Suit Hangers, $24.99 (50-pack) at Bed Bath & Beyond

I’ll never forget walking into my dorm room for the first room to find an armoire filled with about hangers of random shapes and sizes. You can deal with the crappy ones that may (or may not) come in your closet already, or you can just bring your own. These hangers are easy on your clothes, sturdy enough to hold up to 10 pounds, and have a slim design that maximizes closet space. Plus, using a set of uniform hangers will help keep your closet consistently neater

A reading light that won’t annoy your roommate when you’re up late studying or reading

led reading light

LED Reading Light Clip, $9.99 at Best Buy

Living with a roommate means you have to be mindful of someone else’s schedule, not just your own. You might like reading late into the night, but your roomie might want lights off at 10 p.m. to prepare for her early-morning lecture. Rest assured, you don’t have to give up your night-owl habits to respect your roommate’s preference. Pick up a small reading light instead — it takes up barely any space, is bright enough to see comfortably in the dark, and clips onto surfaces for easy use. 

An over-the-door organizer that can be used to hold just about anything

hanging over-the-door organizer

36-Pocket Over the Door Organizer, $20 at Dormify

In a small dorm, you have to get creative about storage. The back of your door is the perfect place to hang an organizer like this one. Use it to store snacks, shoes, cleaning supplies, or random knick-knacks. It provides tons of storage (36 pockets worth) in a space that would probably go unused otherwise. Plus, it’s easy to clean — all you have to do is wipe it down.

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The 5 best twin XL sheets for your college dorm in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • For college students, the dorm room will be their home-away-from-home, and great sheets are a must.
  • Most twin XL dorm beds are 80 inches long, which is five inches longer than a standard twin.
  • Beyond buying the right size, look for sheets that are budget-friendly, durable, and comfortable.

No matter how late you stay up in college, eventually, you’re going to want to catch up on some much-needed shut-eye. With a set of cozy, comfortable, and colorful sheets, you can create a restful sleeping setup that’s also reflective of your style and personality.

Though the decorating of your dorm room might not be as crucial as choosing a major or registering for classes, that small space will be your home for at least a year, if not more, so you want to create a welcoming atmosphere.

This may also be the first time you get to pick out bedding for yourself, rather than living with what your parents chose or what was handed down from someone else’s bed. It’s a great opportunity to define and execute your own personal style, and learn what kind of bedding materials, patterns, and colors you like.

Make sure to read your dorm information and note the measurements of the bed. Almost all dorm rooms have an 80-inch extra-long twin mattress – 5 inches longer than a standard twin. Extra-long and standard twin mattresses are both 39 inches wide.

Here are the best twin XL sheets in 2021

The best twin XL sheets overall

two coral color pillows on top of target threshold sheets the best twin xl sheets overall 2021

Also our top pick for the best budget sheets, the Threshold Performance sheets are silky smooth, with deep pockets that fit well on a twin XL bed and durable construction to last many washes. 

Pros: Great fit, OEKO-Tex certified, good thread count

Cons: May show body oils more easily, smells bad out of the package 

Target’s Threshold sheets are smooth, soft, and silky, made from materials that usually match the specs of sheets four times the price. You might be disappointed to find they’re not actually wrinkle-resistant, as advertised, but they’re great otherwise — both comfortable and durable. 

One of their most notable features is the deep fitted sheet. There’s extra stretch built into the corners of the sheet, helping it cling to any twin XL mattress and reduce fabric bunching. There’s also a top and bottom label to further speed up the process of making your bed. 

Compared to other sheets we’ve tested, the Threshold set traps body oils readily and can develop a greasy feel if you don’t wash it often. This drawback provides a lesson in a good bedkeeping habit you should keep for life: wash your sheets every one to two weeks. 

Luckily, after many washes, you shouldn’t have any pilling or durability issues. Just make sure to wash them before your first use, since they smell bad initially. 

The best flannel twin XL sheets

red pinzon flannel sheets the best flannel twin xl sheets 2021

Pinzon’s thick flannel sheets will keep you warm and cozy on a cold winter night or in a chilly dorm room without making you overheat. 

Pros: Plush and heavyweight, breathable

Cons: Produces a lot of dryer lint, limited color selection, pillowcases run small 

Our favorite flannel sheets are the velvety soft and thick Pinzon sheets. From the first use, they’re soft and immensely cozy, giving you the feeling that you’re snuggling in a mountainside cabin, even if your reality is a rickety bunk bed in a tiny triple dorm room.

Once your winter quarter or semester starts, it’s a good idea to switch over to these heavy and comforting flannel sheets. They’re very warm, but never itchy, uncomfortable, unbreathable, or stifling. I personally felt like I slept better and deeper because of how warm and comfortable they were. The Pinzon sheets are exactly the kind of bedding you want when you’re away from home and acclimating to a new environment.

The pillowcases can be a tight fit if you use high-loft pillows, so we’d recommend getting smaller pillows if you want to buy these flannel sheets. 

Like the Threshold sheets above, you’ll want to wash them before first use since they have a slight chemical smell. And, be prepared for a lot of dryer lint. The amount of lint will eventually go down over time after more washes. 

The best jersey twin XL sheets

amazonbasics sheets

If you love the comfy feel of your favorite t-shirt, then soft jersey sheets like the ones from AmazonBasics are for you. 

Pros: Cozy, soft fabric, good color selection

Cons: Might be a little thin, may not fit deep mattresses 

Jersey-knit sheets are sometimes called t-shirt sheets, as they are made from the same type of soft, slightly stretchy, just-a-little-bit-fuzzy fabric as your favorite garments.

AmazonBasics’ Heather Jersey Sheet Set is made of modestly woven jersey knit and 100% cotton, which, for all that dorm life may put them through, should serve you or your beloved offspring perfectly well for the duration of college.

The sheets are also a good option due to their ability to keep from pilling. Many reviewers say they’ve had the sheets for more than a year and seen little or no wear in the fabric at all, which is pretty good for jersey sheets at any price.

The best colorful twin XL sheets

twin bed with blue nestl microfiber sheets the best color options for twin xl sheets 2021

Available in more than 40 eye-catching colors, the Nestl sheets are the best way to showcase your style and add some life to your dorm room. 

Pros: Large range of colors and sizes, soft brushed feel

Cons: Not suitable for those sensitive to synthetic fabrics 

Quality and comfort are important, but it’s not too much to ask for some sheets that also look great. From mellow yellows and creams to vibrant jewel tones, Nestl offers colors for all kinds of dorm room aesthetics. 

The microfiber sheets are double brushed for extra softness, and they’re cozy yet breathable. Plus, they’ll retain their color and durability after many washes. 

The other great aspect of the Nestl sheets is they come in many sizes, so if you loved them during college, you can continue buying them even once you’ve upgraded bed sizes. For the twin XL size, there’s also an extra deep option. The regular twin XL should fit mattresses up to 16 inches deep. 

The best premium twin XL sheets

person laying under brooklinen luxe sateen sheets the best premium twin xl sheets 2021

The Brooklinen Luxe Core Sheets are buttery-soft, luxurious, and fairly priced, even though they’re the most expensive of our picks for twin XL sheets.

Pros: Super soft, lots of color and pattern options

Cons: Shorter mattress depth, pricey

If you want to have luxurious sheets during your time in college, look no further than Brooklinen’s Luxe Core Sheets. One of the best sheets we’ve ever tried, they’re buttery soft right out of the package and only get softer over time. 

The sheets are an ongoing favorite at the team because they’re made from high-quality materials but cost a fraction of luxury brands. Even though they’re likely a splurge for college students, they’re worth the investment because of the thoughtful design and long-lasting construction. There are labels for the long and short sides of the fitted sheet, and it’s made from long-staple cotton, which is softer and stronger than cheap, short-staple cotton. 

We also love that its colors and patterns are sophisticated yet fun, unlike some twin XL sheet sets that look cheap and childish. 

See more bedding guides for your dorm room

patterned bed in a loft best twin xl sheets 2021
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The best futons for under $500

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Futons are space-saving pieces of furniture that you can use as a couch or bed.
  • If your home has limited space, buying a futon is an easy way to add a seating and sleeping area.
  • The Jerry Sales Excelsior Futon is our top pick; it works well as a pull-out bed and couch.

Futons were made for small living spaces and are perfect for putting up overnight guests. The trick with picking out a futon is finding one that works as well as a couch as it does a bed. That’s especially the case when you’re trying to find a futon online, without testing it out first.

Despite their reputation as starter furniture, you can find some quality futons without spending more than you would on a couch. When picking a futon, think about how it will be used. Different futons are better suited for different tasks.

  • Sitting: If the futon will primarily be used as a couch and only occasionally as a guest bed, look for a model that has legs, armrests, and a backrest that’s part of the frame for the most comfort. Also look for one with fewer ridges, which sometimes offer more support in the bed position but can be uncomfortable as a seat.
  • Sleeping: Some futons take up a lot of floor space when they’re unfolded. If you plan to regularly use the futon as a bed, you’ll need to have clear space around it. You don’t want to put it in a spot where you constantly have to move other furniture to unfold it. You’ll also want to look for a thick and comfortable mattress, along with a supportive frame.
  • Mixture: If the futon will be used for both sitting and sleeping equally, look for one that’s easy to convert from couch to bed and back again. Loveseat-style futons, which feature leg extensions that fold into the frame, tend to provide the most versatility considering how little floor space they take up, according to Futonland.

We’ve spent a dozen hours reading professional reviews, and below are our picks for futons in the under-$500 range.

Here are the best futons you can buy:

The best futon overall

best futon overall under $500 2021 jerry sales excelsior espresso

You’ll pay a bit extra for the Jerry Sales Excelsior Futon, but it’s an extremely sturdy and comfortable piece of furniture for both sitting and sleeping.

Pros: High-quality frame and comfortable mattress, several mattress colors available, full-size mattress, excellent back and neck support, large couch

Cons: Assembly is a complicated process, may be too large for some dorm rooms, comparatively pricey

If your budget can accommodate it, one of the most comfortable futons for less than $500 is the Jerry Sales Excelsior Futon

This model uses an eight-inch thick innerspring mattress that offers plenty of support for sleeping. It’s a full-size mattress, which your overnight guests will appreciate. The couch is 80 inches long. As such, it may be better suited to an apartment than a dorm.

The wood frame includes armrests and good back support, making the Excelsior excellent for sitting, too. Several mattress colors are available to match the look of your apartment or dorm room. There are a few different wood stains available for each frame as well.

You can expect to spend some time on assembly with this futon, but for a futon with this kind of build quality, the extra effort is well worth it. 

The best small futon

best small stylish futon under $500 2021 Kodiak Futon Lounger

If you need a small futon for a dorm room that’s also stylish, the Kodiak Futon Lounger is a great pick.

Pros: Numerous color choices, should fit in many dorm rooms, can be set up as a lounger in addition to a bed or couch

Cons: Not much back or neck support as a couch, sleeper mattress is only 32 inches wide, thinner than some futon mattresses

If you want a splash of style in your dorm room or small apartment, the Kodiak Futon Lounger is the perfect answer.

This futon works better as a small sofa than as a bed because when the mattress folds out, it only measures 32 inches in width and 79 inches in length. If you mostly need it for seating, or your guests are comfortable with the limited amount of sleeping space, it’s a great pick.

The back cushions remain in place when you turn this futon into a bed, while the sides fold down, so you could choose to leave one side upright to create a lounger. 

The mattress is almost six inches thick, so you may not want to sleep on it night after night. You also might want to place the futon against a wall for support when using it as a couch, as the back cushions don’t provide significant support. 

The futon is small, too, measuring only 66 inches in width, so it’ll fit well in most dorm rooms. It’s not really made for more than two people to use at once, which makes it less than ideal for dorm life.

The best Japanese futon

best Japanese futon under $500 2021 fuli's futons

Fuli’s futons come in sizes from twin to king and roll up to fit in your closet.

Pros: Affordable, storable

Cons: Not a ton of support, not a couch

Despite its association with a slatted, fold-out sofa stateside, a futon, which is a Japanese word, is by definition a quilted mattress that rolls out on the floor and is used as a bed. Japanese futons are portable, storable, and often much more practical than their American counterparts, especially in smaller spaces.

The Fuli Shiki futon is a three-layer piece made of 100% cotton fabric and 100% polyester stuffing. The queen size weighs only 10 pounds and can fold to 27 by 37 by 3.5 inches, which means it should fit in most closets and beneath most beds and couches.

It’s a pretty simple, quilted pad, which you’ll either put directly on the floor or atop a tatami mat. We recommend the tatami mat, both to add a little support and to keep your futon clean.

Keep in mind, though, that this is not a US-style futon and doesn’t double as a couch. It does not have foam, it does not have coils, and it will not offer significant support. It will, however, save you space and put up a friend or two in a pinch.

How to choose a futon

Once you’ve figured out how you plan to use the futon, you can home in on the specific features you want. Do you want to deal with a frame? Do you want a sofa? The options are endless, but here a few key considerations to keep in mind when shopping.

  • Bifold mattress: Most futon mattresses are bifold cushions, meaning they fold once when used in the couch setup. However, a few cushions are trifold, which can be a little trickier to set up and use.
  • Easy to clean: Pick a futon mattress that has an easy-to-clean surface material. Using a removable futon cover is a good solution because it’s easy to throw in a washing machine.
  • Frame construction: For a futon that’s easier to move around, it’s helpful if the frame can be taken apart for transport and reassembled later. This can be especially handy if you’re moving a lot.
  • Frame materials: Futons are available with wood or metal frames. Overstock says metal frames offer more durability than wood frames and are typically less expensive, making them perfect for dorm rooms. Wood futons often fit better into the décor of a room and can be more comfortable. If you do spring for wood, you may want to spend more than $500; the cheap particle board that’s often used doesn’t hold up well over time.
  • Innerspring coils: For the most comfortable sleep, a futon mattress with innerspring coils inside — similar to a traditional bed mattress — is the right choice. Some futon mattresses are filled with foam or cotton batting, which isn’t as supportive. 
  • Size: You can buy futons in a variety of mattress sizes, based on your sleeping needs. Futon Life offers a great list of futon mattress measurements to help you decide what works best for you.
  • Weight: If you want to move the futon and mattress regularly from room to room, you don’t want a heavy frame. Innerspring coil mattresses are heavier than their foam counterparts. 

What else we considered

best futons for under $500 2021 target room essentials futon sofa

Room Essentials Futon Sofa: While this futon sofa looks like it could tie any room together, it just doesn’t seem to be built well enough for our recommendation. It’s made with inexpensive wood and assembled rather simply. It also may not be as sturdy as some futon mattresses since it lacks springs.

If you do go for this option, just make sure you assemble it well and tighten the fittings regularly. The particle-board frame will otherwise be prone to giving way. We recommend this if it’s something you’re planning on tossing in a year or two, but you can find better, especially if you’re willing to shop for used furniture.

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